September 18, 2007

SCS2007 Panel on Rules

Filed under: precat — tsladmin @ 4:33 pm

Looking for Group – Kevin Slavin
if we spend time in the worlds of these games, what happens when we extract these types of dynamics we’re used to in these worlds into the real world?
people who share space should share experiences
it’s one of the powerful things the software we have should do
it’s about changing the conditions we’re in when we’re together
he lives in a co-op in Brooklyn, lived there for 4 years before a crisis came up
before the crisis, he thought of the people who lived in the building as neighbors; now as shareholders
he set up a Yahoo group for them to help them all communicate
“I broke my building”
termites appeared in one apartment – whose problem is it?
painting the walls – “this is where you see democracy fall to bits”
showed email messages to the Yahoo Group
residents started writing graffiti on the walls because the Yahoo group wasn’t anonymous
there was no in-fighting until the Yahoo group
these types of groups let you tweak your identity
email is how we work all day, so thinks they became their work identities at home because now they were using email to communicate
took those identities out of the office and into everyday life
the end of rolelessness – they were just neighbors until this, had no roles
email has rules that are different than the rules of everyday life
there are rules of proximity that are fundamentally different than how we express ourselves in email
the online rules broke the real world
what was removed was a sense of civility – what did that?
the tone changed when it became one-to-many, rather than one-to-one; the communication went public
they weren’t anonymous, but they became their email selves, which has more to do with how they spend their day
Kevin suggested shutting down the list pretty quickly, but the others asked him not to (they felt like they were winning, etc.)
things only changed six months ago when a common event caused suffering for everyone and it wasn’t any one person’s fault – that’s when they became civil again
Anything but Routine: Games and the Post-Bureaucratic Institution – Thomas Malaby
what happens when an organization tries to run itself like a game
every moment will fit into a category
what we mean by rules (sources of constraint)
– laws (contracts)
– architecture
– social convention
– the market
games also use these forms of control, too
they are supposed to generate indeterminate outcomes; no one knows ahead of time
Second Life
Linden Labs is in an unusual position on this control because they don’t know where it will end up
“let emergent effects reign”
a dilemma follows from this, though – still have to run the company by the same ideals
– it’s ethical commitment to open-ended creation runs counter to the classically bureaucratic approach; also can’t go the charismatic leader route
– by extension, this mut also ideally govern how Linden Lab operates – it too must be anti-bureaucratic
– the result? a crisis of legitimate decision-making
so they turned to Arpad Elo, a mathmetician, who gave them a way to rank players
they ended up putting every task in Jira software (because the head of the company said they would do this); employees picked a winner from the tasks, which generated a ranking of what they would work on
turned to game techniques to make decisions
“ludic bureaucracy” – lingering questions
– is this the new institution for the Digital Age?
– how legitimate are the outcomes/decisions reached by game techniques?
they exited the system after less than a month
Rules – Kathy Sierra
1. blog comments
2. ‘mean kids’ site
3. email exchanges
4. ‘mean kids’ comes down
5. unclebobism appears
6. police
7. I blog it
7.5. retaliation
8. media nightmare
9. offline
why did it become such a big story?
direct result of her visibility?
she tried to analyze it, including what people called the whole thing
internet “rules”
1. don’t feed the trolls (but it escalated because they were trying to get a reaction
2. if it’s on the net, it’s not a REAL threat (this is what people told her)
3. you own your own words (and nobody else’s); question: are you responsible for comments others make on your blog?
4. civility = censorship
5. “if you want to be on the internet, grow a pair”
6. online friends are “real” friends… and can be trusted (site owners involved didn’t know who was posting)
psychological “rules”
the brain has a mind of its own
1. anonymity – “the greater internet fuckwad theory”
part of the problem is the brain’s “illusion of invulnerability”
people who survive horrific scenarios have less of this illusion of invulnerability
2. anyone can be seduced by situational forces and group dynamics
“the lucifer effect” – The Stanford Prison Experiment & The Stanley Milgram Obedience Studies
it can happen almost instantly
the persuasive power of social proof – it’s why advertising works
“if he’s doing it, it must be okay to do”
Doc Searls took down his blogroll because it put him one degree away from someone behind the mean sites
we can use the power of social proof
1. code of conduct – not even explicit; eg, Javaranch registration terms of service, which consist of “be nice.” “no dumb questions” and “no dumb answers;” moderators keep the tone
2. who we recommend – remember that our readers perceive links as endorsements, even if we don’t mean them to be
be aware of what can appear to be acceptance, tacit approval, or even celebration
most importantly, be mindful of your brain’s deceptions
a good rule: less bark, more wag
Joi Ito
We Know/We No Forums for his WoW guild
used to work as a DJ in a club and sees many of the same issues in online forums
in the past, if you could do it in the game, it was okay – finding the hack was okay; designers worked to keep out the hacks
now, though, Blizzard’s terms of service states that just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you can – they will still ban you
issue of buying gold outside of the game to use in-game
Blizzard uses the terms subjectively when they want to
so the guild had to create a long set of rules for how to handle gold
best metaphors are the nightclub and church ones – it can become unfun and unravel very quickly
Joi is a dictator about the metaphors only in terms of running the forums
corporate metaphor completely fails (because what you do isn’t based on your job)
Law & Virtual Worlds – Greg Lastowka
low stakes in virtual worlds right now, but may change
Four parties involved: two players, the owner of the platform, and the state
player investments = time and money
owners investment = time and money and technological control
state = generally not invested
looked at 5 different possible scenarios of problems and whether the state intervenes or not
fifth scenario involves a fifth party and stolen copyright/trademark
2 big questions
1 – legally, what is a virtual world? (what is it like?)
2- how do the optimal rules for virtual worlds differ?
we need a more sophisticated framework for applying law to virtual worlds
virtual worlds as communities, games, fictions
not really special if they’re just online communities
state defers more to community self-ordering (game rules), but may intervene in the case of games
for fiction, the state has substantial deference to all aspects of virtual worllds – owners are privileged speakers (eg, theater); possible defense to keeping the state out of virtual worlds
what is an “optimal” policy for ludic ordering? (game, contract, state)
regulation by state – classic legal rule, generally “uniform”
customizable as contracts, though (EULAs, private agreements)
so the question is are games somehow special?
game rules – efficient, arbitrary, state’s role if they are arbitrary? who decides?


  1. During Kathy Sierra’s presentation she held up some books – did you happen to catch the title of the first one that she held up about how the brain plays tricks on you? I did not catch the title due to audio problems. It had a white cover with what looked like black lettering – how reference desk desperate is that? I caught the following titles – Deep Survival, Mind Hack, and Power of Persuasion.

    Comment by chris — September 19, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  2. Chris: You might eke out some other titles from Kathy’s talk at CUSEC 2005? 2006? (I forgot which year it was, but search for a recording of her talk at that conference.)

    Comment by Edward Ocampo-Gooding — September 20, 2007 @ 10:39 am

  3. Sorry, Chris, but I didn’t write it down. I started to try to track the book titles, but then Liz said she’d post them on the wiki so I stopped. I hope they do appear on the wiki or whatever public site springs up for the conference because many of us are interested in the titles.

    Comment by jenny — September 20, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

  4. I just logged in to the participant wiki and now there’s a list of the titles she mentioned. I believe the one you’re thinking of, though, might be the second one. Here’s the full list:
    * Power of persuasion by Robert Levine
    * A mind of its own: How your brain distorts and deceives by Cordelia Fine
    * The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo
    * Deep Survival by Lawrence Gonzales

    Comment by jenny — September 20, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

  5. Sorry folks — yes, the list Jenny published is correct, and my first choice would be “A Mind of its own.”
    The other book I mentioned but didn’t show is “Mind Hacks” from O’Reilly. They have a gread blog, too.
    Just don’t forget to have a glass of wine or bottle of scotch handy when you start down this road ; ) But remember there’s hope at the end… awareness (and acceptance) of the brain’s pulling-our-strings gives us a chance to scrape out a little free will after all.

    Comment by Kathy Sierra — September 21, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

  6. Thanks everyone – much appreciated – now I am off to the library to check it out.

    Comment by chris — September 21, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

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